31 October 1997



FIVE lumpy bin liners, including one very odd smelling one, an over-flowing linen basket and a ricked ankle from falling off the Lego mountain. Yes, Ive just got round to mucking out the boys bedroom after ignoring it all summer – no doubt just in time for them to return it to its natural state over half-term.

Then comes the problem – do I leave it untouched by human hand until after Christmas, and risk Father Christmas getting so bogged down that he doesnt reappear until after Easter, or repeat the exercise in December and run out of time to pluck the turkeys. Who says housework doesnt stretch the mind?

While Ive been fighting through the undergrowth indoors the remarkably un-autumnal weather has been the cause of havoc in Pets Corner. Two of the bantams have produced a vast collection of eggs that they have been determinedly sitting in tandem, and after several expectant weeks have managed to produce from their communal hatchery – one microscopic chick. No bigger than a cotton wool ball, he has still managed to cause chaos with the ensuing custody battle.

The children have quickly discovered that a few crumbs from the bottom of their sandwich boxes will instantly send the two feuding mothers into competing flurries of calling and scratching, each desperate to prove that only she could be deemed a fit mother. Every morsel is gathered up and presented to the cocky youngster. He has consequently grown at such a rate of knots that I might have to contemplate an alternative version of the Judgement of Solomon and add him to whats on offer for the customers at Christmas.

However, two mothers per child could catch on. It would certainly cut down on the time spent grovelling under beds for fossilised socks.

I had promised myself that I wouldnt moan about Those In Power, ie MAFF, government, local councils, etc, this month, but I really cant resist this choice little morsel of officialdom gone mad. Another half a tree from MAFF has landed on our doorstep this week entitled – Beef Labelling Regulations. A tome worthy in its principles but somewhat lacking in practicality. Having spent several hours alternately chortling, swearing and sighing, I think it runs something like this: Although I personally, deliver all our calves, help tend to their daily needs for the next two years, assist in gathering their fodder, organise their slaughter, and ultimately convert them into bite-sized chunks for sale in our farm shop, it will shortly be illegal for me to divulge any of this information to my customers unless I have previously had it verified by an approved third party – which I will have to pay for – and then approved by MAFF.

If I want to stick a label on a joint of topside saying "grass-fed" or "well hung" that would also have to be verified and approved at my expense. This task is going to be made even more tricky by the fact that MAFF has, as yet, not appointed any approved third parties.

In fact, I suspect that this is really a backdoor Final Solution for the BSE crisis – you cant sell beef unless all information offered has been verified by a third party, but there arent any third parties, so you cant sell beef, therefore no one needs to worry about BSE any more – simple. I think Ill go back to sorting the Lego from the Meccano; its more restful.

Ellen with sons William and George: Their room is a challenge but less harrowing than beef labelling regulations.

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